Round 4 of Pittsburgh Chess Club tournament: the agony of losing a won game against the difficult opponent
After round 3 last week of the current Pittsburgh Chess Club Tuesday night tournament, I noted that I was going to face a difficult opponent in round 4.
Well, I lost my game against him tonight, after four hours of play (we were the last game to finish):
This is the first chess game I’ve reported on in this blog in which I lost!
What lessons from losing?!
What makes this loss particularly agonizing is that I had an advantage for a long time in the game (and had a win at one point), and entered an endgame a solid Pawn up such that if I were playing for a draw, there would not be any way to fail, but instead I made error after error until I lost. Even worse, I actually had a drawn position just moves before I resigned.
Here’s what happened.
The complete annotated game
At your convenience, you can enjoy playing over the game with my annotations, including diagrams.
I was faced with the psychological challenge of playing a “difficult opponent”, which I define as someone who I have a bad score against. I had lost one game to my opponent and drawn one game that I almost deserved to lose.
As White, I had the choice of playing into one of his favorite openings or avoiding it. I ended up doing something halfway: allowing his opening but choosing a different way of responding to it. I did this with the expectation of reaching a certain kind of middle game that would be solid for me as White: a Ruy Lopez kind of position.
Overview of my game
My opponent again tried to enter the Philidor Defense through a Pirc Defense move order. I varied with the quiet
Bd3 variation in order to bolster my
d4 center with
I made some inaccuracies in the opening by not playing an early
Be3 that would have guaranteed a safe advantage.
Still, I achieved a solid position:
Then, out of the blue, my opponent creatively embarked on a Pawn sacrifice.
The way he played it was actually completely unsound, such that if I had taken the time to find the best moves, I would have won. But it was a creative idea: it was meant to be a positional sacrifice, choosing to lose a Pawn in order to gain the advantage of the two Bishops and better development. It should not have worked, however.
His bluff worked, and I fell into a position in which although I was one Pawn up and had the advantage, it was not going to be trivial to actually win rather than draw.
After I finished developing my pieces, I immediately traded into an endgame in which I was a Pawn up and objectively had no chance of losing.
Here’s where things got weird. When I realized that I did not have much of a chance of winning, I started dreaming up strange attacks that ended up not working at all. I started losing Pawns, my Knight ended up much worse than his Bishop (thereby justifying his positional sacrifice in the first place to get the Bishop), and I was dead lost.
Then magically, at some point he started playing poorly, to the point at which I finally achieved a drawn position!
But at that very moment, I played an incomprehensibly terrible move, and immediately after that, realized I was lost. The rest of the game was meaningless given that. I resigned when he was about to Queen a Pawn.
- Even when playing a solid, safe opening, an enterprising opponent might be able to surprise with an unsound sacrifice that blows the position up.
- I should have spent more time finding the refutation of the sacrificial line.
- Simplifying to an ending is natural when ahead in material, but was the wrong thing to do when it was possible to maintain more tension.
- In a drawn endgame, I got discouraged and started playing to lose. Terrible.
- Even in a lost endgame, there are opportunities to draw; I missed the final drawing move.
Well, I now lose the lead in the tournament. I don’t know yet whom I’ll be playing in round 5. I have probably lost the chance to win this tournament, as a result of my loss, but I intend to play well during the final two rounds!
It’s always tough to lose a chess game. It’s especially hard when you identify the kinds of errors you made and what you could have done differently and thought about but decided poorly.comments powered by Disqus